gcurtis, could you please tell me more about your experience with the M5S regarding their sound and what other speakers you have had in the past? I currently have Merlin TSM-MM speakers along with an Epik Legend subwoofer and to my untrained ears they sound very nice. I am wondering what to expect in terms of increased performance for the money spent on the M5 Sapphires. I am hoping to hear them if there is someone local to me in either MA or RI that would be willing to show them off.
I'm coming off having lived with an older Linn system put together in the 90's and early 2000's, so I haven't rotated a lot of modern gear, other than a couple other DACS, through my own setup. It was an active crossover/amped system. A couple upgrades were done to the AV 5140/Espek speakers in recent times. But I'll admit, after putting in this new system, the Linn's actually held up better than I thought they would have in comparison. The Mytek DAC inserted into the old system made a very noticeable improvement on its own to me over the Schiit Gumby multibit I was using the last year and a half.
The M5's and the all new front end have made quite a substantial improvement of course, and have no regrets/buyer's remorse at all. Totally loving this package. Very lively sounding with real snap, giving a more accurate and "live" feel to the reproduction. The M5's are very open sounding with a nice sized sound-stage effect, and once broken in which takes a while, are smooth, fully harmonic, dynamic and revealing (I'm hearing quite deep into the mix now). Very clean fast bass that goes surprising low (even without the sub) and deals much better (basically gone) with an upper bass node I have in my room. There is no flabby bass here. Everything is in the right proportion. And what really surprised me was the pinpoint imaging they produce even with these wider baffle speakers, having come off the narrow baffle Linns which imaged well. Of course the rest of the new system is contributing to this. For reference my speakers are 7 feet apart at center and my seating position is about 10 and a half feet from the front plane of the speakers.
The open baffle design intrigued me and I went to the Florida hi fi show locally last January to hear them. They were the M3 model but the basic voice is identical. I liked what I heard (as much as you can at a show) and saw, so I took the plunge. My amp choice ultimately was even influenced by Clayton too. After telling him I was interested in trying a class D amp and what I was considering (PS Audio, Wyrd4Sound among others), and he suggested Cherry (Digital Amp Co.). He was having great success in one of his auditioning rooms (using the M series) with some of their "in-line" mono amps, and thought they were ahead of the curve in class D design (all proprietary). I ended up getting the 2-Cherry stereo amp (200/400 watt).. Tommy O'Brien at DAC/Cherry is a great guy to deal with too BTW.
While I might not be the best resource to give a vast comparison as my experience is somewhat limited. I hope this helped a bit for you and the OP. Be glad to answer any other questions. Cheers.